Sunday, July 05, 2009

British schools bar parents from sports day... to keep out paedophiles

Parents were banned from attending an inter-school sports day to protect pupils from kidnappers and paedophiles. The host school said they could not prevent 'unsavoury' characters from sneaking in.

More than 270 pupils from four local primaries took part in the East Beds School Sports Partnership Athletics Day at Sandy Upper School in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire last week. Youngsters aged seven and eight competed in the long jump, hurdles, sprint, 400 metres and relay races. Their parents, many of whom wanted to take time off work to attend, condemned the ban.

One mother, who did not wish to be named, said: 'They said they just could not estimate how many parents were going to be there, and were worried that they couldn't stop someone who shouldn't be there from being there. But I think it's just health and safety gone mad.' Mother-of-three Emma Collett, 33, of Biggleswade, has a child at St Andrew's Lower School in the town. She said: 'I would have taken time off work to support my child. It would have meant a lot to me. 'I'm all for measures to protect the safety of children but lines must be drawn and common sense must prevail.'

Paul Blunt of the East Bedfordshire School Sports Partnership, which ran the event, said the 'ultimate fear' was that a child could be abducted. He said: 'If we let parents into the school they would have been free to roam the grounds. All unsupervised adults must be kept away from children. 'An unsavoury character could have come in and we just can't put the children in the event or the students at the host school at risk like that. 'The ultimate fear is that a child is hurt or abducted, and we must take all measures possible to prevent that.'

Mr Blunt confirmed he had received a complaint from an irate mother but defended his decision. He added: 'None of the children taking part attend the host school so it would've been really hard to police. 'We did a risk assessment and concluded that we couldn't guarantee the children's safety. 'The number of children involved meant it would have been hard to ensure people were who they claimed to be.'

Local councillor Anita Lewis also backed the decision, saying: 'The safety of the children is paramount. 'It was decided that following a risk assessment we could not adequately supervise up to 100 plus adults on the school site.'

However, Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said it was 'totally unreasonable' to ban parents from a sports day. 'It's clearly a serious misjudgement. One of the great pleasures of sports day is that their parents can watch them take part,' he said. 'If you followed the thinking of this ban you wouldn't be able to let you child out of the front door.'


A pipedream of six turbines a day until 2020

Lord Hunt has made one of the most absurd claims that can ever have been uttered by a British minister, writes Christopher Booker

Last Wednesday, two days before our Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, told us that motorists could help save the planet by changing more quickly to a lower gear, his underling Lord Hunt made one of the most absurd claims that can ever have been uttered by a British minister. Solemnly reported by the media, he said that by 2020 he hopes to see thousands more wind turbines round Britain's coasts, capable of producing '25 gigawatts (GW)" of electricity, enough to meet "more than a quarter of the UK's electricity needs".

In three ways this was remarkable. First, as most of us know by now, thanks to the intermittency of the wind, the actual output from 25GW of turbine capacity would only average out at 7.5GW. Since Britain's peak demand is 56GW, Lord Hunt's turbines would meet barely a seventh of our needs, just over half what he claims.

Nor did he mention their cost. Thanks to the British Wind Energy Association telling us that the current price of offshore turbines is £3.1 million per megawatt, the bill we would all have to pay for Lord Hunt's dream would be £77 billion, plus the £15 billion that he did admit would be needed to pay for cabling to connect his windmills to the grid. For the same £92 billion we could build 34 nuclear power stations, enough to meet all Britain's needs, at a seventh of the cost for each unit of electricity.

The second remarkable feature of Lord Hunt's vision is that, in practical terms, there is no conceivable way it could happen. To build the 10,000 turbines that would be required by 2020 would mean installing more than two of these 2,000-ton monsters, the size of Blackpool Tower, every day for the next 11 years. But, thanks to weather conditions at sea, it is only possible to carry out the work for four months each summer. So the true rate would be more like six a day. Nowhere in the world has anyone managed to instal more than one a week, as opposed to Lord Hunt's hypothetical 45.

The third, perhaps most disturbing point is that the media dutifully reported Lord Hunt's absurd claims without asking any of the elementary questions that could have revealed that he was talking utter nonsense. One cannot of course expect Opposition MPs to take an intelligent interest in such matters. But if journalists allow ministers to get away with talking such tosh, the slide into unreality can only continue.


Homophobia claim stokes war of words between the Tories and Labour

Both Left and Right in Britain are competing to support homosexuality

A furious political row over homophobia intensified last night when the Conservatives accused two openly gay ministers of “stirring up hatred and division” after they claimed that many Tory MPs were homophobic. As up to a million people prepared for the Gay Pride march in London today, Ben Bradshaw, the Culture Secretary, sparked outrage by declaring that “a deep strain of homophobia still exists on the Conservative benches”. Chris Bryant, the Foreign Office minister, added: “If gays vote Tory, they will rue the day very soon.” Harriet Harman, the Leader of the Commons, also weighed in, saying that David Cameron’s apology this week for the Conservative attitude on Section 28 was 25 years too late.

Alan Duncan, one of two gay Shadow Cabinet ministers, accused Mr Bryant and Mr Bradshaw of “stirring up hatred and division”. He said: “I have publicly paid tribute to Tony Blair for his achievements, particularly on introducing civil partnerships. David Cameron this week said that on Section 28 we had to admit we got it wrong. The party has changed. I bet in Labour backwaters there are plenty of people who don’t like the fact that Ben Bradshaw is gay.”

The Conservatives are keen to stress that their prospective election candidates include a number of gay people, including the party’s vice-chairman, Margot James, and that the next generation of Tory MPs will be more socially liberal. In a survey of 144 prospective parliamentary candidates in winnable seats for the ConservativeHome website, 62 per cent said that same-sex couples should be given the same benefits as married couples, while 31 per cent disagreed.

Mr Cameron apologised this week for Section 28, the controversial law brought in by the Conservatives in 1988 banning local authorities from portraying homosexuality in a positive light. Mr Cameron, the first Tory leader to speak at a Gay Pride event, said: “I am sorry for Section 28. We got it wrong. It was an emotional issue. I hope you can forgive us.”

His words were described as historic by Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of Stonewall, the gay rights group, who added that the apology removed a major obstacle that had stopped many gay people voting Tory. However, Mr Bradshaw and Mr Bryant urged gay people to study Conservative voting records on issues such as gay adoption and hate crimes. Ms Harman, whose Equalities Bill would outlaw discrimination on the ground of sexuality, urged people to disregard Mr Cameron’s words.

She told Pink News: “I don’t think anyone should be fooled by the apology, which is already 25 years too late. It is not the view of the Tory party. They have voted against the Equality Bill. If they were sincere, they would support it.”

A survey by Jake, a networking group for gay professionals, found that 38 per cent of gay people questioned would vote Conservative, even though just 4 per cent said that the Tories were gay-friendly.


British doctors punished over appointment times by patient survey

This is British bureaucracy at its most moronic. Doctors will just reduce the number of patients they see if this goes through. Britons will end up having as much trouble finding a doctor as they already do in finding a dentist. In Britain, an NHS doctor has a "list" and you have to be on his list to be treated by him. If this goes through, doctors will close their lists and, as the elderly who take most of a doctor's time drop off the list through death, he will soon have a smaller list and be able to see all of them promptly. Nobody wants to work for nothing, which is what the new system imposes. Socialist bureaucracy will be as destructive as usual.

People with no doctor will then flood hospital emergency rooms and then what will become of the bureaucratic "targets" there? Will 4 hour waits transmogrify into 4 day waits? Bureaucracy will have made the problem worse instead of better -- as usual. Another possibility is that doctors will spend less time with each patient, thus causing things to be missed and allowing problems to develop -- with the patient ending up severely ill in hospital when that could have been avoided. Once again the strain on the already overburdened hospitals will be increased

Family doctors will lose millions of pounds in funding because of complaints from patients over the waiting times for appointments. Most general practices around the country are expected to suffer losses — some as much as £25,000 — when the results of a survey are released today.

The GP Patient Survey, the first to financially penalise doctors who receive negative responses, is expected to cost practitioners more than £10 million and in the worst cases could force cutbacks such as staff redundancies.

The estimated cost to surgeries in Birmingham has been calculated at more than £1 million, while those in Northern Ireland and Wales are likely to lose similar sums. In Greater Manchester, about half of GP practices have been told they will lose up to £10,000.

The system, designed to encourage a better service from GPs, has been widely criticised for punishing some practices that need more help. Doctors have also raised concerns about being judged on a small number of responses and queried why just two of the survey’s 49 questions — concerning access to a GP in 48 hours and more advanced appointments — carried all the financial penalties.

In Scotland, where patient responses were processed last month, some practices serving more than 10,000 patients were hit with five-figure penalties as a result of the responses of only 50 patients.

Laurence Buckman, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GPs’ committee, said that the lengthy survey did not encourage responses, and a few negative patients could skew the perception of a good practice. This was particularly likely in inner-city areas, where high numbers of patients could not be bothered to respond. “Some practices are going to be very badly hit with huge amounts of money on the say-so of very small numbers of patients,” Dr Buckman said. “We know in England that there are going to be similar results as there were in Scotland. “If you reduce money, you are reducing the services, not improving them. Because of the way payment is geared you can only have the money taken away. We will be looking at thousands of practices that will be adversely, and in some cases, unfairly hit.”

Describing the survey’s flawed methodology, Dr Buckman said that most questions were angled negatively to seek out underperformers while none covered simple issues such as “how good is your doctor?” He said that the process “was so long that most people would just get worn out and give up”.

Practices that receive less than 60 per cent of positive responses to the two key questions would sacrifice all the money available as part of the Quality and Outcomes Framework, which pays doctors for achieving service targets. The BMA predicted an average-sized practice could face losses of £7,500, while larger lists could lose more than £10,000. Hundreds of practices are expected to appeal.

In Glasgow, 170 of 270 practices will appeal. GPs’ leaders in Scotland said that few practices had escaped losses entirely.

David Stout, the Primary Care Trust network director at the NHS Confederation, said that money taken from GP budgets would be reinvested by trusts in other services. He said that PCTs had discretionary powers to reduce the penalties if they felt that a practice had been treated unfairly.

“If it’s over-zealous then [the Government] will want to look at that in the cold light of day and if it needs to be re-examined it will.”

A Department of Health spokesman denied that the survey was flawed, adding that it had been agreed by stakeholders and would be an accurate reflection of patient perceptions.


Mother falsely accused husband of rape because 'she wanted him out of her life'

But this doesn't happen: Any feminist will tell you that

A lying mother who cried rape to get her estranged husband 'removed from her life' was jailed for four months yesterday. Michaela Lodge's 'wicked' allegation against innocent Martin Lodge resulted in him spending 12 hours in a cell. Only after three months did the 45-year-old mother-of-three confess she had made it all up so she could pursue an affair.

Judge Rodger Hayward Smith said her 'calculated' behaviour had done a great disservice to real rape victims'. Sentencing Lodge, who admitted perverting the course of justice, he said: 'It was a wicked allegation that was pre-planned to hasten his departure from your life.' Lodge, of Braintree, Essex, was arrested after finally confessing she had lied in a letter of apology to Mr Lodge begging his forgiveness.

Last night her 54-year-old husband told the Mail being arrested left him 'totally humiliated' but that his wife, who he supported in court, had 'learned her lesson'.

Prosecutor Andrew Jackson told Chelmsford Crown Court Mr Lodge's ordeal began last November when his wife claimed he had raped her in the house they continued to share, even though they were estranged. Essex Police started a rape investigation and held Mr Lodge in custody for 12 hours and 49 minutes. He was released on bail after insisting he had gone to bed with his wife, but only at her invitation.

Two months later Lodge made a witness statement in which she said she did not want her husband prosecuted - but continued to maintain he had raped her. However in February she passed a letter to her husband, via her son Daniel, admitting the lie. It had 'a kiss underneath' his name on the envelope, the court heard. The letter read: 'I am so sorry about what I have done to you. My head was and is all over the place. 'I cannot deal with this any more, I need to put it right. When we went to bed we both wanted to make love and the fact is I lied to police about you raping me. 'I will say goodbye and hope one day you will be able to forgive me. I am so sorry.'

When arrested for making the false allegation, Lodge admitted she had lied. Mr Lodge was never charged. Marc Brown, defending, insisted Lodge had not acted out of malice or revenge and claimed she started having regrets almost immediately. He said: 'It was born out of a confused desire to remove him from the picture. She accepts it was an outright lie. She did what she did without thinking of the consequences.'

Lodge, whose three grown-up children are from a previous marriage, boasts on the Friends Reunited website that she loves 'nights in with a nice bottle of wine' and 'going out with my friends dancing'. Elsewhere she describes herself as 'bisexual', and has also posted photographs of herself in a short dress flashing her stocking tops.

She was jailed despite 'a magnanimous appeal for mercy' from her husband, asking the judge to spare her from prison. Last night Mr Lodge, a warehouseman who married his wife in 1994, said: 'When the police turned up I was totally gobsmacked. I couldn't believe what was going on. It was totally humiliating. 'But I really can't hold too much against her. Maybe I'm too soft - that's why I supported her in court. 'I think it's a very lenient sentence but I think maybe she could not have been sent to jail as I think she has learned her lesson.'


An old man with oldfashioned views

I don't at all agree with the views concerned but such views were perfectly normal in the 1930s and there is no doubt that they are still held by some today. I think they have a right to be expressed but I am fairly sure that he will end up in a British court over them. Though the authorities may be deterred by his high public profile

Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One chief, said yesterday that he preferred totalitarian regimes to democracies and praised Adolf Hitler for his ability to “get things done”. In an outspoken interview with The Times, the 78-year-old billionaire chastised contemporary politicians for their weakness and extolled the virtues of strong leadership.

Mr Ecclestone said: “In a lot of ways, terrible to say this I suppose, but apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he was in the way that he could command a lot of people, able to get things done. “In the end he got lost, so he wasn’t a very good dictator because either he had all these things and knew what was going on and insisted, or he just went along with it . . . so either way he wasn’t a dictator.” He also rounded on democracy, claiming that “it hasn’t done a lot of good for many countries — including this one [Britain]”.

Instead, Mr Ecclestone endorsed the concept of a government based on tyranny. “Politicians are too worried about elections,” he said. “We did a terrible thing when we supported the idea of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. He was the only one who could control that country. It was the same [with the Taleban]. We move into countries and we have no idea of the culture. The Americans probably thought Bosnia was a town in Miami. There are people starving in Africa and we sit back and do nothing but we get involved in things we should leave alone.”

Mr Ecclestone, who plunged the Blair Government into a row about donations in 1997 after it emerged that he had given the party £1 million, has a reputation for being outspoken. Last month he said that Formula One needed a “black, Jewish woman who, if possible, wins some races”.

In 2008 he provoked uproar when he suggested racist comments directed at Lewis Hamilton on websites in the build-up to the Brazilian Grand Prix “started as just a joke”. However, he told The Times yesterday that he was deeply concerned when he saw fans “blacking up” to mock Hamilton, an act he described as racist.

However, his latest comments could prove deeply damaging. Claiming he likes “strong leaders”, such as Margaret Thatcher, Mr Ecclestone suggested that Max Mosley, his close friend, the president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), would make a good Prime Minister. Mr Mosley, the son of Sir Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists, was recently accused by Formula One racing teams of being a “dictator”.

Mr Ecclestone said: “I prefer strong leaders. Margaret Thatcher made decisions on the run and got the job done. She was the one who built this country up slowly. We’ve let it go down again. All these guys, Gordon and Tony, are trying to please everybody all the time. “Max would do a super job. He’s a good leader with people. I don’t think his background would be a problem.”

Mr Ecclestone’s remarks last night drew a strong reaction from Jewish groups and politicians. A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews said: “Mr Ecclestone’s comments regarding Hitler, female, black and Jewish racing drivers, and dictatorships are quite bizarre. He says [in the interview], ‘Politics is not for me’, and we are inclined to agree.”

Stephen Pollard, Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, said: “Mr Ecclestone is either an idiot or morally repulsive. Either he has no idea how stupid and offensive his views are or he does and deserves to be held in contempt by all decent people.”

Denis MacShane, the Labour MP and chairman of the all-party inquiry into anti-Semitism, and chairman of the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism, condemned Mr Ecclestone’s decision to align himself to a “growing” anti-democracy movement. “Of course democracy and the politicians are imperfect and full of fault,” he said. “But this fashionable contempt for the right of people to elect their own leaders is frankly frightening. “If Mr Ecclestone seriously thinks Hitler had to be persuaded to kill six million Jews, invade every European country and bomb London then he knows neither history and shows a complete lack of judgment.”

John Whittingdale, the Tory chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said: “These are extraordinary views and I’m appalled that anybody could hold them.”


British immigration facts and figures


As promised, here’s the full story of those immigration statistics that I obtained from the ONS. In our new e-world, I can pass on all the results to you – and they’re worth discussing. The figures show the extent to which Brown’s “boom” was a mirage built not just on debt, but foreign labour. Most seriously, we can see a deep dysfunctionality in the UK labour market. Our system keeps millions on benefits (never less than 5 million have been on some kind of benefits since 1997) while meeting the needs of expanding the economy with a limitless supply of industrious immigrant labour. This means that the direct link between a growing economy and combating poverty is broken – and this is a serious development that demands attention.

The ONS results are here, in a pdf*. The key finding: there are fewer British-born workers in the first quarter of 2009 than Q1 of 1997. The trend of employers preferring immigrants, which we saw during the boom, has become more marked still during the bust.

But if we zoom in on the last eight years, the recession simply exacerbated what had been an existing downwards trend of UK-born workers in employment while number of foreign-born workers in employment has soared.

Without a doubt, immigration has been the largest change of the Labour years – the ratio of immigrant workers has almost doubled in the private sector and the economy overall as the below graph shows. This means the UK’s the overall mix of immigrants is up there with that of America – a change not taken deliberately, or with any debate, but something that happened by accident and which ministers are still struggling to understand.

I count myself as a supporter of immigration. But there is no doubt that mass immigration has given ministers the option of ignoring our own unemployed. If we didn’t have this unending tap of motivated workers then Britain would be forced to confront the fact that so many of its workers are being incentivised to do nothing by the welfare state. Here’s what the benefit tally, including ‘hidden unemployment’, has looked like in the last decade – using the DWP’s definition of out-of-work benefits.

At no point in the boom did the number on out-of-work benefits fall below five million souls. Almost half have been on welfare for five years or more – and are, therefore, statistically more likely to die than to work again. As I say, were it not for immigration, we’d be forced to confront this problem or our economy would not grow. When I was a business journalist in the late 1990s, I remember writing stories about how bus companies were recruiting in homeless shelters because they couldn’t find the staff. The people in those shelters were being offered structure to their lives, from an employer forced by economic conditions to deal with the greater risk they pose. It was a sign of economic growth addressing social problems – as it should be.

But mass immigration has broken this link. It meant Gordon Brown could actually afford to keep so many million on benefits, as tax receipts were being generated by comparative newcomers. It was a lot easier than trying to reform welfare. Scandalously, that’s what Brown did. To my mind, it is the most contemptible failure of his time as Chancellor. He had the money, the economic boom, to sort out the welfare dependency that afflicts so many communities in Britain. But he took the easy, short term route. To use that analogy the Prime Minister is so fond of deploying, he walked on by on the other side. Why get your hands (and poll ratings) dirty with welfare reform when you can rely on immigrants to keep the economy growing and tax receipts flowing? And who wants to end up with disabled people chaining themselves to the railings of parliament, as happened when Blair tried welfare reform? Brown took the easy option. And his short-termism has condemned millions to worklessness and poverty who might otherwise have escaped it.

This matters for Cameron, because he will inherit Brown’s dysfunctional labour market – one distinguished by its striking failure to provide that now-notorious Brown slogan “British jobs for British workers”. What if, when the recovery comes, the economy just sucks in more immigrants and the huge surge in dole numbers is never properly reversed?

That’s why immigration matters. You can’t understand the UK labour market, or the pernicious nature of the UK welfare state, without it.

The Brown economic model has spectacularly failed to provide British jobs for British workers – this is yet another one of his empty promises that a Tory government will have to fulfill. But unless the Tories work out how employment, welfare and immigration are interlinked they will be destined to repeat the same scandalous failure of the Brown years.

PS All immigration data is from the Labour Force Survey, a Eurostat-mandated study conducted by the ONS which defines immigrant in its most basic sense – ie, ‘foreign born’. No categoriation is perfect, and this of course captures some Brits like Boris Johnson who were born abroad. I also exclude pension-aged people from the study - it's working-age only. The trend of pensioners returning to work is a topic all by itself.

*If asked for a password it is FraserNels0n

SOURCE See the original for links, graphics etc.

Ultrasound treatment offers new hope for prostate cancer patients

Men with early-stage prostate cancer could be treated with soundwave technology instead of surgery, leading to fewer side-effects, research suggests. A study of 172 men whose cancer had not spread beyond their prostate found that 92 per cent were free of cancer a year after undergoing the experimental therapy.

They were given general anaesthetic and treated with high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), which uses high-frequency soundwaves to kill cancer cells. Small amounts of tissue are heated up to a temperature of between 80C and 90C.

All the men in the study were day cases and 78 per cent were discharged from hospital in an average of five hours. The trial took place at University College Hospital and the private Princess Grace Hospital, both in Central London. The results were published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Men with prostate cancer are usually treated with surgery or radiotherapy. Surgery involves a hospital stay of two to three days while men having radiotherapy usually need daily outpatient treatment for up to a month.

The results published yesterday found that men treated with HIFU had fewer side-effects than those treated with radiotherapy or surgery. Fewer than 1 per cent had incontinence, none had any bowel problems and 30 to 40 per cent had impotence. Of men treated with surgery or radiotherapy, between 5 and 20 per cent usually suffer incontinence and half have impotence.

Hashim Ahmed, who ran the trial, said that the study suggested that it might be possible to use HIFU more widely in treating men with early prostate cancer with fewer side-effects in the future. “We don’t yet know for sure if HIFU is more effective than traditional treatments so it will be important to carry out further studies involving a larger number of patients, followed over a longer period of time to truly compare the long-term effectiveness of this treatment.”


Using speech to cover up meaning

Below: Excerpt from a paper, signed by Sir Ken Jones, the former Chief Constable of Sussex and president of the Police Association. Do YOU understand what he is saying?
"The promise of reform which the Green Paper heralds holds much for the public and Service alike; local policing, customized to local need with authentic answerability, strengthened accountabilities at force level through reforms to police authorities and HMIC, performance management at the service of localities with targets and plans tailored to local needs, the end of centrally engineered one size fits all initiatives, an intelligent approach to cutting red tape through redesign of processes and cultures, a renewed emphasis on strategic development so as to better equip our service to meet the amorphous challenges of managing cross force harms, risks and opportunities.”


When the incomprehensible gobbldegook was criticized, the police responded: "That’s how civil servants speak”. I don't doubt that for one minute.

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